DESPITE being a newspaper, for nearly fifty years The Westmorland Gazette has had listeners as well as readers. 

This is thanks to the service provided by a group of volunteers working for the South Lakes Talking Newspaper, which has been in operation since 1974. 

Each week, between 45 to 60 people are involved in the editing, reading, and dispatch process from the studio at Stricklandgate Methodist Church. 

This is all so people with visual impairment or other health issues can keep up with local news. 

The Westmorland Gazette: The USB sticks getting ready to be posted The USB sticks getting ready to be posted (Image: Dawn Bonham)

Dawn Bonham, chair of the talking newspaper said: "We are a specialised service. We offer a recording for those who want to hear the local news.

"People can hear what has gone on in the last week from the recording."

In terms of how many people listen, Dawn said: "It is a moving figure, currently we are sending out about a hundred sticks every week.

The Westmorland Gazette: The volunteers at South Lakes Talking Newspaper editing that week's audio The volunteers at South Lakes Talking Newspaper editing that week's audio (Image: Dawn Bonham)

"Of course, that changes from time to time if someone has passed away or moved away. 

"We are now also available through our website which people can access on their computers. We are aware that more people are starting to take us up on that.

READ MORE: South Lakes Talking Newspaper will continue services during lockdown

"But we will never stop sending off the sticks, because we have a lot of older subscribers who appreciate that." 

The service has overcome some challenges in recent years to continue delivering fresh news via posted USB sticks and on its website on copy-day every Thursday.

Both the pandemic and postal strikes have threatened the service. 

Dawn said: "I think through the pandemic members really pulled out all the stops. It was really tough. At the height of the pandemic, we had no access to the studio. 

"We did Zoom recordings, and with a much smaller number of members, we got something out every week. Some of our volunteers were vulnerable themselves. 

"Everyone was feeling very isolated and vulnerable the service we provided was more important than ever. We had people who probably did not get out of the house for a year or so, they had some kind of contact and could hear what was going on locally." 

Dawn said that she was "really keen" to have some more volunteers, and has approached Kendal College to see if they are interested in sending over students involved in audio production.